Over a year ago our beloved seller-of-all-things Amazon.com launched an entity called Amazon Studios. This was to be a competitive environment for the display, promotion and possible production of motion pictures.
I discussed the parameters of the competition with friends and colleagues and read the materials over and over myself. In the end, I decided it just wasn’t that great a deal for writers. I wasn’t alone. A year after launch, it was clear Amazon Studios failed to catch on with writers and filmmakers on a large scale.
In a nutshell, you were asked to give up many of your rights and subjecting your work to “review” and “resubmission” by others. These factors alone were enough to scare off most experienced screenwriters whether you had ever signed a short form option or not.
As an aside, it was a pretty GOOD deal, however, for filmmakers. Competitions and requests for visual material based on submitted scripts seemed on target with the expectations of directors. I actually know one such director who made a great film for The Velvet Elvis. He seems satisfied with the process and how he was treated.
But I firmly decided Amazon would not see any of my work.
That all changed when early in April 2012, Amazon announced a near complete overhaul of their production processes. It is now much friendlier to writers.
Among the benefits:
- A very reasonable 45 day period where Amazon holds an option to either buy your script for $200,000 or extend the option on the material by 18 months for $10,000.
- The ability to submit an original screenplay privately. Meaning, only Amazon Studios has access to the material for the 45 day period.
- Paid script writing opportunities, to the tune of $33,000 for a rewrite.
They’ve also pretty much done away with their competitive design in favor of a more free-submission format.
For filmmakers the landscape likely has also changed. I don’t see anything on the horizon that would enable someone like my friend to make a full film based on a script in development. The paradigm is shifting toward producing trailers and promo videos.
All factors combined, this seems more like how a real production company would pursue development of material. Since Amazon has a first-look deal with Warner Brothers, these shifts make sense.
I’m convinced. I have already submitted one screenplay and plan to follow that up with all my unclaimed feature material. I am going the private submission route for now but there is a case to be made for public exposure as well.
Paring down the many pages of the submission agreement, I am left with one overriding conclusion: Amazon is now appearing more like a production company that is serious about making a profitable theatrical film. And they are a production company that encourages unsolicited material. That is music to the ears of many talented screenwriters looking for a way into the market.